Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most prevalent disease that causes seniors to undergo severe vision loss and even blindness. AMD causes the macula to become thinner. The macula is a central part of the retina—a layer of nerve cells behind the eyeball that send signals to the optic nerve. The macula is related to straight-ahead vision and allows a person to see extremely fine details.
AMD is divided into two categories: dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration is more mild, more common, and slower in its development. While dry macular degeneration can advance to the more serious wet form, most cases do not.
The causes of dry macular degeneration are not completely understood. However, lifestyle choices, certain genes, and certain illnesses can all increase the risks. For instance, those who smoke, have a poor diet, or have put on a significant amount of weight can cause dry AMD to develop sooner and more rapidly. Caucasians are more prone to developing this condition compared to other races, and certain genetic changes, like in the CFH gene, are believed to increase the risk of this disease. Lastly, conditions that affect blood vessels can also heighten the risk of dry macular development.
Since degeneration happens slowly, a person may not even realize he or she has a vision problem at first. Dry macular degeneration can develop in one eye first, but both are usually affected.
The cause of dry macular degeneration is not known. However, scientists have identified several factors that increase the risk of the condition.
Age is one key risk factor in dry macular degeneration. The disease develops over time as the eye ages, and it most common in people over the age of 65.
There is also a genetic component to the disease, and researchers have identified some specific genes that raise the risk of developing the condition. Because of this, people with a family history of dry macular degeneration are more likely to develop the disease themselves. Dry macular degeneration is also more common in Caucasians.
Smoking cigarettes greatly increases an individual’s risk of developing dry macular degeneration. Passive smoking, such as by living with a partner who smokes, also increase the risk.
Obesity and being overweight also increase the chance of a person developing dry macular degeneration. Carrying weight around the waist is a particularly significant risk factor.
Cardiovascular disease has also been linked to dry macular degeneration.
Although there is no cure for dry macular degeneration, the condition can be drastically improved and slowed down.
If the condition doesn’t progress to the wet type, then a doctor can treat a patient with laser therapies or injections. Lifestyle changes and diet changes are key to improving symptoms. For instance, if a person is a smoker, he or she should work on kicking the habit. If a person has high cholesterol or eats a low-nutrient diet, he or she should work on eating more green vegetables and adding more copper, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and beta-carotenes to his or her diet.
Many of the risk factors for dry macular degeneration can be controlled by lifestyle changes.
Studies show a consistent link between dry macular degeneration and being overweight or obese. Therefore losing weight through a controlled diet and exercise program is one way to reduce your risk, particularly if you hold excess weight around the waistline.
Exercise itself is a known preventive measure against dry macular degeneration. Moderate aerobic exercise is beneficial as it can help maintain the structure of the eye, but even walking 12 blocks or more each day can reduce the risk of dry macular degeneration by 30%.
Quitting smoking is another lifestyle change that will significantly reduce your risk of developing dry macular degeneration. If you are having trouble quitting smoking, speak to your doctor who will be able to offer assistance.